How New Yorkers Are Getting Around After Sandy

Biking and walking over the Queenboro Bridge this morning. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

With the heart of the subway system knocked out of commission, this morning the Streetfilms crew — Clarence Eckerson, Elizabeth Press, and Robin Urban Smith — headed out to the bridge crossings that link Brooklyn and Queens to Manhattan, to document how New Yorkers are getting around under emergency conditions.

The huge crowds massing in Downtown Brooklyn to take shuttle buses over the Manhattan Bridge were testament to the sheer number of people who ride the subways on a normal day. While the waits were long, the system seems to have performed as well as can be expected. With HOV restrictions in effect, once buses got into Manhattan, they reportedly made better time than they do in typical NYC traffic.

Meanwhile, the city’s new bike infrastructure is really proving its worth today. If people have to cover significant distances and want to skirt gridlock or lengthy transfers entirely, biking is the way to go. The safer bikeways that NYC DOT has built in the past five years — especially the segments that link directly to the East River bridges — are helping New Yorkers get back to work.

Waiting to board the shuttle bus at Jay Street. Photo: Elizabeth Press
Boarding the bus through the back door at Jay Street. Photo: Elizabeth Press
Morning commute bike traffic on the Allen Street center median protected bike lane. Photo: Elizabeth Press

Bike traffic heading toward Manhattan on the new approach to the Queensboro Bridge. Photo: Clarence Eckerson
Another view of the new Queensboro Bridge approach, a little farther out from the bridge. Photo: Clarence Eckerson
The Williamsburg Bridge bike/ped path. Photo: Elizabeth Press
Car traffic approaching the Queenboro Bridge. The gridlock should ease more tomorrow as compliance with the HOV restrictions grows. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.
The Brooklyn Bridge promenade. Photo: Elizabeth Press
Taking Jay Street to the Manhattan Bridge. Photo: Elizabeth Press
  • Clarence

    Gridlock could also ease as people are running out of gas.  It’s a big topic in Queens.  A friend went by bike to scout out gas stations she could drive to later.  5 out of 5 were out of gas completely!

  • al

    Mobilize the school buses.  Use them as express buses and BRT.

  • Oh for Citibike; it would’ve been so, so helpful.

  • Voter

    Three people in my building rented bikes to use tomorrow. They tried the bus from the Barclays Center and said the wait was too long. Two other people unlocked bikes they had in our basement for months.

    If the city doesn’t radically shift its transportation priorities after this disaster it will only be a matter of time before it happens again.  More bike lanes, more BRT, congestion pricing, HOV rules… these all need to be in place AFTER Sandy from here on out.

  • Anonymous

    @62688185170dcbcb060a782a4d3b865d:disqus School buses are needed to shuttle students, ESPECIALLY in this context. You don’t want their parents driving them to school because their buses were summoned for other services. Children who can walk don’t usually have school buses services, they are used for those who do not study close to home.

  • Anonymous

    @andrelot:disqus : school buses are needed to shuttle students where? To the schools that are closed and have been closed all week?

  • KillMoto

    Mayor Bloomberg can’t run again, yes?  OK, if I were him, I’d reeeeeeeeeealy drag my feet in lifting HOV-3, and in restoring traffic light operation.  Both seem to be doing so much good

  • Ben Kintisch

    So many happy intrepid new bike commuters today at the Manhattan Bridge rolling into the city. Welcome to bike commuting people, and don’t quit once the subways are back!
    Imagine how many more if Bloomberg and company was actually promoting biking as the fastest way to get into the CBD!

  • al

    andrelot: When school starts back up, the buses could do early morning runs to get early commuters to work (5-7AM), then pick up students for school (7-8AM), then get another bloc of commuters to Manhattan (8AM-11AM).  They could have a lunch break and fuel up the buses (11AM-1PM).  Then an early afternoon move to pick up kids for trip home (3PM-4:30PM).  Then the PM Rush.

    This is until the trains are back to normal.

  • Waltezell

    The bicyclists don’t seem to have any discipline about observing which direction of travel each side of the bike lane is marked for. It really looks crazy. Are these the nubes, or is it always like this.

  • Anonymous

    @c44dc01f8107c1b33104b538f33b734d:disqus This kind of reasoning is sickening, that an elected civil leader like a mayor should just give the middle finger to the citizens of a city to push some specific agenda.

    HOV-3 restrictions expire tonight. 

  • The staten island faery

    sadly won’t change biking in the long term, especially once the cold kicks in. i’ve biked through all the “bikes r coming!” fantasies we activists have had over the past years, from the transit strike to the 1st ave bike path being erected, etc.

    the sad thing is, biking is still a backup, or “less-than” anyhting else. the 40 year old virgin mentality (eg the “hey asshole, get a car!” shouts i get when i bike other times of the year) is still in full effect. to create a sustained, serious bike culture the only two things i see that will make a significant difference are

    1. infrastructure for the post-ride, including good parking and showers. yes, i don’t like it but that’s what the majority of norms want, and
    2. a cultural shift in the utter, baffling hatred of bikers (which comes with 1) as dirty, poor and “stupid” for biking when they can, duh, take a car.

    Also, fuck the NYPD and their own personal vendetta for us over the past few years. maybe with bloomie out, kelly will also leave and we’ll have some less thuggish, inexplicably bike-hating machos.

  • Eric Britton

    Wonderful. You are starting to look like Copenhagen.  We are also trying to track at

  • The staten island faery: The difference between now and the 2005 transit strike is that there’s a lot more infrastructure in place now.
    New cyclists this week are finding out how much more comfortable it is now, and a non-zero number of new commuters will continue because of it.

  • @328612a72ef9868fcb22cd962b2941ea:disqus There aren’t a lot of bidirectional bicycle lanes where this can even be an issue. On bridge paths with a center line, it’s a guideline, not a wall. Especially with a lot of people walking on the cycling sides of bridges, and some of the very slow inexperienced cyclists, passing across the center line is necessary. Also sometimes people will ride in pairs. If you’re by yourself, it’s not difficult to ride past someone slightly in “your” lane.
    A good rule of thumb is to stay as far to the right as you are comfortable and be tolerant. It’s a shared space. Riding a bicycle at a normal speed is not dangerous and shouldn’t lead to territorial disputes. We’re all in it together.

    @andrelot:disqus Anyone who feels negatively affected by a policy can imagine they’re personally given “the middle finger”. I feel like the city is giving me the middle finger every other day by allowing cars to park in bicycle lanes without consequence. By refusing to enforce the speed limit. By allocating great swaths of public space to free auto parking. Whether it’s rational or not, I’m bound by instinct to dramatize this and make it about me personally, to feel like the city is targeting me with lots of fingers.

    But in reality we’re talking about policies affecting millions of people, with many competing “specific agendas”. Conjuring up middle fingers that poke disgruntled victims doesn’t get us any closer to fairness. As this is a democratically elected government, its one and only concern should be the greater good. You will find that arguments on Streetsblog, if you stick around, are almost always predicated on exactly that. All government policy should be consistently applied towards the greater good. To the extent that it is not, we have evidence of corruption. There is apparently a lot to root out.

  • CheapSkate

    As a resident of Lower Manhattan who just got power back this morning, I can’t describe how thankful I was for protected bike lanes when I had to forage up down seeking cell phone connectivity, phone charge, access to my bank account and food. Expanding the bicycle network is probably one of the best things this administration has done for New Yorkers.


Q & A With Charles Komanoff on Kheel Plan 2

Charles Komanoff in the booth at WNYC earlier this year. Photo: WNYC/Flickr Today Ted Kheel released a revised version of his plan to fund transit through a congestion pricing mechanism on motor vehicle traffic. Streetsblog spoke to one of Kheel’s lead analysts, Charles Komanoff, about the updated plan (see the major components here) and why […]

Keep L Train Passengers Moving With Great BRT

The news that Sandy-related repairs will require closing one or both directions of the L train under the East River (the “Canarsie Tube”) for one to three years has understandably caused panic among the estimated 230,000 daily passengers who rely on it. Businesses in Williamsburg that count on customers from Manhattan are also concerned about a […]

Three Concrete Proposals for New York City Traffic Relief

This Morning’s Forum: Road Pricing Worked in London. Can It Work in New York? Three specific proposals to reduce New York City’s ever-increasing traffic congestion emerged from a highly anticipated Manhattan Institute forum this morning. One seeks variable prices on cars driving in to central Manhattan, with express toll lanes and higher parking fees to keep things […]